Wednesday, March 31, 2021


Pattern Hacks

Recently I spent a lot of time fitting a pattern for a top for me and writing down each step of the process so I could do a presentation on fitting for the Lansing Chapter of the American Sewing Guild.  I think I got more out of the presentation than anyone else!  It was an eye-opener for me.  It proved to me the benefits of fitting a pattern and then making changes to that pattern for additional garments.  So much time can be saved by simply making changes to a pattern that already fits you instead of fitting a new pattern each time you make a different garment.  Of course, I knew this, but rarely took advantage of the fact by actually doing it.

I used Simplicity pattern 8061 and posted the instructions for fitting on my blog.   The pattern was a short sleeve top with bust darts and a jewel neckline.  Shortly after finishing that top, I decided to make another one using the same pattern, but did not have enough fabric.  I decided to cut the front and back pattern pieces apart and make yokes out of one fabric and the bottom of the front and back out of another fabric. 

Without realizing it, I was doing a pattern hack.  A pattern hack is making changes to a pattern that creates a different design from the original pattern.    It might be making a simple change like making the garment longer or shorter or you might use sleeves from a different pattern; or maybe you make a top or blouse into a dress or move bust darts to the shoulders or neckline.  There are many, many ways to change a pattern to make it your own.  This is much simpler than fitting a different pattern each time you make a garment. 

I decided to hack Simplicity 8061 at least one more time.  I wanted to do something different to the sleeves this time.  I recently purchased McCall’s M8161 pattern because I liked the different sleeve options.  One of the options offered was a wide pleated band at the bottom of the sleeve.  A picture of the pattern envelope is shown below.

I decided to make two changes to my Simplicity pattern.

1.  Lower the high jewel neckline in the front by ½ inch.

2.  Add a pleated band to the sleeve.

The first thing I did was make the neckline lower.  I measured down from the neckline at the center front ½ inch and then used a French curve to extend the curve from the front up to the shoulder seamline.  I did not take much off the side front neckline; most of the lowering was done at the center front. 

Change no. 2 took the most time to do.  I made a mockup of the sleeve and band before I cut them out of my fashion fabric.  I used some tan fabric from my stash to make the mockup. 

I knew the sleeve needed to be shorter if I was going to add a pleated band to it.  I measured about 2 inches down from the armscye at the side seam and drew a line across the sleeve.  I cut off the bottom portion.    I wasn’t sure how wide to make the pleated band, so I looked at the McCall’s pattern and saw that band was 11 inches wide.  I made the length of the band about 2 times the width of the bottom of the sleeve.  I sewed the two small edges of the band right sides together.  Then I folded the band in half lengthwise with the wrong sides together.  I basted the raw edges together.  I pinned the pleats in place using the markings on the McCall’s pattern.  When I checked to see if the pleated band was the same size as the edge of the sleeve, I noticed the two pieces did not quite fit together.  The band was a little too small.  I adjusted each of the inverted pleats by 1/8 of an inch.  Then I was able to sew the pleated band to the right side of the bottom of the sleeve.  A photo of the mockup of the sleeve is shown below.


 To decide if I liked the look of the sleeve, I pinned it over a sleeve on a top I previously made with simplicity 8061.  I liked the look, but did not like the length of the new sleeve.  It came to just below my elbow.  I decided these sleeves might look better on me if the pleated band was narrower.  I decreased the width of the band pattern piece by 2 ½ inches.  A picture of the completed top is shown below. 


So far, I have sewn three different tops from Simplicity 8061.  I think my next project will be to convert this pattern to a blouse that buttons down the front.   I enjoy the process of sewing different tops without having to take the time to fit a new pattern.  I will let you know how my next pattern hack goes.

I hope you are working on a fun project!









Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Fitting a Pattern for Capris with an Elastic Waist

I suddenly realized today that spring is not far away.  The sun is actually shining and the snow and ice have melted.  Maybe I should think about updating my spring and summer wardrobe.  I haven’t really needed any new clothes this past year because I wasn’t going anywhere to wear them.  Maybe this year will be different!  Perhaps we can get together with friends soon if all of us get our Covid-19 vaccinations.  Maybe we will be able to go to church, out to eat, and even travel to see family.  I sure hope so!

I don’t have any summer pants with elastic waists.  So, I decided to fit a pattern for capris using an elastic waist.  If I don’t like the look, I can convert the pattern to one with a fly-front.  I pulled Simplicity 9674 from my stash.  The pattern consists of just two pieces, the front and back of the pants.  The waist is cut and folded over to form the casing for the elastic waist.  I measured my hips and chose the size based on that measurement.  I measured across both pattern pieces from seamline to seamline to make sure there was enough space to equal my hip measurement plus some extra for ease.   When you are making pants with an elastic waist, you need to be sure to give yourself enough room to pull the pants up over your hips. 

My pattern does not have any pockets.  I never make pants without pockets, but this time I am.  My goal is to get a pattern to fit me as quickly as possible.  I can fine tune it later by adding pockets and maybe even a zipper.  But right now, I am only interested in getting the pattern to fit!

I know that pants patterns are always too long for me and I could see by holding the pattern up to my body that this pattern was no exception.   The first thing I did to the pattern was to shorten it.  Most patterns have a lengthen/shorten line, but this one did not.  I drew a horizontal line across the leg about four inches down from the crotch line.  I wanted to shorten the pants one inch.  I drew a line one-half inch above the original one and another line one-half inch below the original.  I folded the bottom line up to the top line and this shortened the pattern one inch.  Then I trued the lines on the pattern.

I cut out the first mockup of the pants using some muslin from my stash.  Then I transferred all markings from the pattern to the mockup.  I sewed the mockup together using a long basting stitch.   I tried on the mockup and pulled the pants up to where the crotch should be and tied a piece of elastic to hold them up while I checked the fit.  I had to ask my husband for help with fitting the pants.  He wasn’t exactly pleased, but he agreed to do it.  I made sure the elastic was at my waist and he marked the waist on the mockup with a ball-point pen.  The capris looked okay from the front, but in the back, the legs seemed too full and had vertical wrinkles from just under the derriere to the hem.  This will happen if you have a flat derriere.  I pinched out about one-half inch fabric starting at the derriere and that seemed to solve the problem. 

I checked the Pants for Real People book by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto to see how to transfer this alteration from the mockup to the pattern.    I learned I needed to take a tuck in my pattern from the waist to the hem, even if by doing so, it made the waist and/or hips too small.  This will keep the pants on straight of grain. 

I extended the straight- of-grain line to run from the waist to the hem.  Then I added another line ¼ inch to the right and one ¼ inch to the left of the grain line.  Then I folded the line on the left of the straight-of-grain line to meet the line on the right.  That removed ½ inch from the width of the leg from the waist to the hem.  After making the tuck in my pattern, I added the same amount at the side seams at the waist and the hips and tapered back to nothing just below the bottom of the derriere.  Now, the pants will be the same size in the waist and hip areas as before I made the adjustment, but the legs from the derriere to the hem will be ½ inch narrower.  And the pants will still be cut on straight of grain.

I transferred the waist markings from the mockup to my pattern.  The waist was noticeably uneven, so I smoothed out the line.  The band for the elastic insertion is cut onto the pants pattern.   The elastic I tied around the mockup sat on my waistline and I want the bottom of the elastic to touch the waist.  Therefore, I measured to make sure I had enough room for the band to rise above the waistline and fold over for the elastic enclosure.

 The picture below shows the changes I made to the front of the pattern.  As you can see, the only changes I made was to shorten the length and I moved the waist line down a bit.  

The picture below shows the changes I made to the back of the pants.  I shorten the pants first.  Then I made the lengthwise tuck to take out 1/2 inch from the width of the pants.  I added a piece of pattern paper to the side seam so I could add back the 1/2 inch I took off the waist and hips.

When I searched my stash for fabric to make the capris, I discovered a pice of linen-like fabric that was green with large black polka dots.  I also had a piece of a solid green coordinating fabric, but it was small.  I wanted to make the capris and a matching top from the pattern I fit last month, Simplicity 8061.  A picture of that pattern envelope is shown below.

After comparing the capris pattern and the blouse pattern to the amount of fabric I had, I decided to make the capris from the polka dot fabric.  Then I would have enough polka dot fabric to make a yoke on the front and back of the blouse.  The solid coordinating fabric would be used to make the sleeves and the lower portions of the front and back.  

To make the yokes, I drew a line on the front and back where I wanted the yoke to end.  Then I traced the front and back yokes on a piece of pattern paper and added a 5/8 inch seam allowance to both.  Sewing the blouse together went quickly because I just completed one last month using this pattern.

Pictures of the completed capris and blouse are shown below.  

Have you started a project to increase your summer wardrobe?  Now is the time to sew those capris pants.  Summer will be here before you know it!


Monday, February 22, 2021


How to Lower the Bust on a Pattern

Michigan has beautiful winters as long as you don’t have to go outside.  However, it is difficult to stay in the house all winter.  I just don’t like the cold.  I was really looking forward to going to St. Simons Island, Georgia to get away from the extreme cold, but we had to cancel our vacation.  We just didn’t feel safe traveling during the Covid-19 pandemic.  So, I am stuck with Michigan snow!  I do realize how lucky I am to have heat, electricity, water, and plenty of food.  Lots of people in this nation are experiencing a shortage of all of those. 

I am entertaining myself by sewing, blogging, and even purging our basement.  I am beginning to realize just how large my fabric stash is.  I put the overflow from my sewing room in large plastic bins in the basement.  I never realized just how many bins I have.  The truth is I can’t possibly use all this fabric.  There are not enough years left on my “earthly agenda” to make something from all this fabric.  We are preparing for a large garage sale in the spring, so I will add some of my stash to the sale.

My last four posts have been discussions about fitting a pattern for a blouse or top.  I decided to use this post to talk about lowering the bust.  There is more than one way to accomplish this, but this is the method I use.  If I am doing a full bust adjustment on a pattern, I will do that first before I lower the bust.  The reason is when you do a full bust adjustment, it will automatically lower the bust some.  I always check after the full bust adjustment is done to see if I still need to lower the bust.

The pattern usually has an apex already marked on it.   The dart should point to the bust but stop about 1” from the apex (point of the bust).  Mark on the pattern where your apex should be.  You can do that by holding the pattern in place against your body or if you have already made a mockup of the pattern, you should have marked the apex on your mockup and then you can transfer it to your pattern.  Next, I drew a box around the dart as shown in the picture below.


Then, I cut out the box and moved it down the amount I needed to lower the dart.  It is important to keep the two horizonal lines parallel when you move the box.  The dart now should point to the apex. 

 Add paper to fill the space you created when moving the box and true the lines of the pattern.

Are you currently sewing a garment for yourself or someone else?  Sewing a garment is a great way to keep your mind active and sharp.  You use your problem-solving skills as well as your creative and engineering skills.  Now don’t tell me you don’t have those skills.  You do!  They may just be lying dormant waiting for you to call them to action.  Use them soon.  Plan to sew a garment for yourself.

Have fun,


Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Fitting a Pattern for a Blouse or Top

Fitting Topic No. 4:  Sewing a Second Mockup to Incorporate More Adjustments


This is a continuation of Fitting Topics No. 1, 2, and 3 in my series of posts on Fitting a Pattern for a Blouse or Top.  The first three topics were posted Dec, 27, 2020, Jan. 3, 2021 and Jan. 18, 2021.   As indicated in my last post, I found when I tried on my first mockup that I needed to do a round back adjustment as well as lower the bust a little more.  I may also need to do a forward shoulder adjustment.  I wanted to do the round back adjustment first to see if that would take care of the forward shoulder. 

I chose another piece of fabric from my stash to use for the second mockup.  It is a 100% cotton print.  If this mockup fits, I may be able to actually wear the top.  Then I can see if it is comfortable or if it needs some additional tweaking before I cut into expensive fashion fabric.  I cut the front and back pieces and the sleeves.  Before I cut the sleeves, I added ½ inch to each of the sleeve side seams.  That compensates for the additional ½ inch I added to the front and back side seams. 

I sewed the front and back pieces together and tried on the mockup without setting in the sleeves.  The adjustments I made to lower the bust and for the round shoulders worked well.  However, the round shoulder adjustment did not alleviate the forward shoulders issue.  I could see the back shoulder seam needed to be moved forward another ¼ inch.  If I had another person helping me with the fitting process, I would have had that person open the shoulder seam while I had the mockup on and then pin the shoulder seam where it should have been.  Then I could have measured that seam and made the adjustment on my pattern.  Without a helper, I had to stand in front of the mirror and make an assessment of the amount needed.  Then I took off the mockup and made the changes and tried it on  again to check the fit.  Once I had it on, I could look at it in the mirror and also place my fingers on the seam line and feel that it was in the right location.  To offset the extra 1/4 inch I added to both sides of the back neckline at the shoulder seam, I could take 1/4 inch off both sides of the front neckline.  I chose not to do that because I like the extra room at the neckline.  However, I will add 1/4 inch to the seam of the of the back neck facing on my pattern. 

The next step was to try to insert the sleeves.  You can see in the picture above, the width of the back across the armscyes are little too wide.  This is where I really could have used someone to help.  My husband was not up to the task, so I had to do it alone.  I did not want to make the top so snug across the back that I would have difficulty moving my arms.  I decided to baste the sleeves with a 5/8 inch seam and try the mockup on again before determining how much extra seam to take.  After doing that, I decided to take an extra ¼ inch on the seam in the middle of the armscye in the back and gradually decrease to 5/8” again at the shoulder seam and where the seam straightens under the arm.   A picture of the mockup is shown below.



This second mockup fit much better than the first, but the front was a little loose in the hip area.  This sometimes happens when your hips are smaller than your bust and you make the full bust adjustment on the pattern.  One solution is to make a pair of vertical darts in the front.  I added the darts and liked the appearance of the front of the top much better.

I think this second mockup is wearable.  So, my next step was to take it apart and sew it together again with a regular stitch instead of a basting stitch.  I also added the facing to the neck edge and back opening.  The pattern called for a thread loop and button at the top of the back opening.  Because I am not good at making thread loops, I decided to use a small elastic jewelry cording.  I enclosed both ends between the facing and the back when I sewed those two pieces together.  I liked this much better than a thread loop.

Also, I wasn't really happy with the darts I added to the front of the top.  I decided to rip those out and take 1/2 inch off both sides of the front from the hem decreasing to nothing at the waist area instead.  I think this will work better for me.  Pictures of the finished garment are shown below.



This wraps up my series of posts on Fitting a Pattern for a Blouse or Top.  Fitting is a process.  It takes time and patience but the rewards are worth the effort.  Once you have a basic pattern that fits, it can be used multiple times and can be changed into different styles without having to fit another pattern! 

Have fun sewing!


Monday, January 18, 2021


Fitting a Pattern for a Blouse or Top

Fitting Topic No. 3:  Sewing a Mockup for the Blouse or Top 

This is a continuation of Fitting Topics Nos. 1 and 2 in my series of posts on Fitting a Pattern for a Blouse or Top.  The first two topics were posted Dec. 27, 2020 and Jan. 3, 2021.  After making a full bust adjustment to the front pattern piece of Simplicity 8061, I cut out the pattern and sewed a mockup for the top.   A mockup can be made from muslin or any other fabric that is of similar weight to what you will use for your final garment.  I am using a piece of fabric from my stash.  It is something I won’t mind throwing away after I get the pattern to fit me and before I cut my fashion fabric intended for the final garment.  I did not make any changes to the back piece of my pattern, but I did make sure to mark the horizontal balance line (HBL) and checked to see it lined up with the HBL I marked on the front pattern piece. 

I placed the front, back, and sleeve pieces of Simplicity 8061 onto my fabric and cut out the mockup.  Then I transferred all markings to the mockup.  I marked the HBL lines in ink on the right side of the fabric so it will show in photos.  Of course, I would not do this with fabric for a garment.  I did it on the mockup so it will be easier to see in a photo.  I used large basting stitches on the mockup so it will be easier to rip out stitches and make adjustments when I try on the mockup. 

For making adjustments to the mockup, I will use information found in The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen and a CD published by Threads titled Create a Master Bodice Pattern with Sarah Veblen.   Both the book and the CD teach you how to read the drag lines and folds of the fabric to make the necessary adjustments to your test garment (mockup).  I really like the 2-disc set, Create a Master Bodice Pattern, because it shows Sarah Veblen fitting a mockup on a real person while she explains each adjustment.


I can’t possibly show you every adjustment you might need in a few posts, but I will tell you about the ones I needed to do and will mention a few others.  The way to learn to fit a mockup is to do it yourself.  It is easier if you have someone to help you, but it is also possible to do it yourself by looking in a mirror or fitting it on a dress form.  Doing it by yourself will take longer because you will be removing the mockup frequently to make your changes.  I realize that during this pandemic most of us don’t have another skilled sewer to help us.  I had to enlist the help of my husband.  Although his help was limited, it did make fitting a little easier.  He was able to pin the seams for me and help me decide if the mockup’s HBLs were straight.

If you prefer to fit the pattern tissue pieces directly to your body instead of making a mockup, you should follow the instructions for that given in Fit for Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto.  That book gives detailed instructions for fitting the tissue pieces with pictures and explanations of how to make alterations.  I use both Fit for Real People and The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting as research tools when I am trying to fit a pattern.  Both are full of excellent information regarding fitting. 

I sewed the front and backs together with long stitches before I put the mockup on for the first fitting.  As planned in my previous post, I sewed 1/4 inch side seams and a 1/4 inch center back seam instead of the 5/8 inch allowed on the pattern to get the extra room I needed.  I did not sew in the sleeves. 

The front fit reasonably well.  I noticed I will need to lower the bust probably another 3/4 - 1 inch. The back had wrinkles from under the arms pointing towards the shoulders and the shoulder lines were not in the right spot.  These two issues may indicate there is not enough room in the back to go over the rounded part of my back.  My shoulders roll forward so the shoulder seams do not sit where my shoulder line is.  I will do an adjustment on my pattern for round shoulders and this adjustment may take care of some of the wrinkles from under my arms by adding more fabric to go over the curve of my back.  I may also make a forward shoulder adjustment to my pattern to correct the shoulder line.  I have three changes to make to my pattern before I cut out another mockup:  1.  Make round back adjustment; 2. Make forward shoulder adjustment; 3. Lower the bust.

It is important to write down each of the adjustments you need so you will remembe to transfer all of them to your pattern.  You can write them on paper or even on your mockup if it is a solid light color.  Check them off as you add them to your pattern.

I traced another back pattern piece.  I decided not to increase the center back seam as I did on the first mockup because that would increase the neckline.  Instead, I decided to add another 1/8 inch to each side seam in addition to the 3/8 inch I added when I took 1/4 inch side seams on the mockup instead of the 5/8 inch allowed on the pattern.  Therefore,  I added 1/2 inch (3/8 + 1/8) to each side seam.  I will need to add the corresponding amount to the seam allowance on the sleeves also.  

I decided not to make the forward shoulder adjustment to the back pattern piece.  Instead, I will adjust the shoulder seam line after I sew the next mockup.  I want to see if the round back adjustment changes the shoulder line enough that I may not need the forward shoulder adjustment.  

The next change I made to my pattern was the round back adjustment.  I marked the seam allowance for the neckline and the armscye.  Then I drew a line one inch down from the neckline seam on the center back straight across to the seamline at the armscye.  I made sure I did not cut through the seamline.  Then I clipped from the armscye up to but not through the seamline.  This made a hinge for the back to slide up 3/8 inch on the center back but remain attached at the armscye.  It is very important to keep the lower portion of the back on the straight of grain when doing this!  I placed a strip of paper under the open section and taped in place.  When I made this adjustment, the center back curved in slightly at the neckline, so I straightened the center back.  This will probably not affect the neckline because the small amount of extra fabric can be eased into the facing.  If you have a larger amount, you could add a neckline dart.     

I traced another front pattern piece so I can make the changes necessary for the front.  First, I added 1/2 inch to the front side seam just as I did for the back.   Then to lower the bust, I drew a box around the dart.   I kept the upper and lower edges of the box parallel.  Then I cut out the box and moved it so the point of the dart was ¾ inch down from the apex.  I added a strip of paper under the dart area and taped the box in place.  I used a red pen to mark the box, but it is still difficult to see in a photo.  The two photos below show the box as it was drawn and the box after it was moved down and taped in place. 


Now I am ready to cut out my second mockup and baste it together.  I will let you know in my next post how that turns out.  If you have not started fitting a pattern, I hope you will give it a try.  Just be sure to do some reading on the subject and be ready to experiment!





Sunday, January 3, 2021

Fitting a Pattern for a Blouse or Top 

Fitting Topic No. 2.  Preparing the Pattern Before You Cut

This will be a continuation of my post, Fitting a Pattern for a Blouse or Top, from December 27, 2020.  After choosing my pattern and my size, I begin to get my pattern ready.  Unlike most people, I don’t cut up my pattern.  Instead, I start by tracing my pattern on medical exam paper before beginning.  This way if I make a major mistake while cutting my size out of the multi-sized pattern pieces, I won’t ruin my original pattern.  I know this takes a little longer, but I am too cheap to ruin a pattern that I may want to use for a different size later.  You may choose to simply cut around your size on the original pattern and work with that instead of making a copy. 

As is the case with most commercial patterns, Simplicity No. 8061 was made for a person with a B bra cup size.  Since I am sewing a top for a D bra cup size, I already know I will need to make a full bust adjustment on my pattern.   I will do that adjustment before I cut the fabric.  If you have never done a full bust adjustment, I suggest you start by reading the instructions given in either of the two books I recommended in my last post.  Fit for Real People by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto explains how to make the adjustment beginning on page 142.  The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen describes the full bust adjustment beginning on page 128.  She also gives instructions for a small bust adjustment on page 128.  Marta Alto has a CD titled Full Busted?  Sew Clothes that Fit!.  Marta gives very clear instructions on her CD for the full bust adjustment. 

The finished garment measurement at the bust was printed on the front pattern piece of Simplicity 8061.  If your pattern doesn’t give you this figure, measure across the front pattern piece at the bust from seamline to seamline.  I suggest you mark the seamline on your pattern at the bust when you do this so you will get an accurate measurement.  Also, measure from seamline to seamline across the back pattern piece.  The total of the front and back will give you the finished garment measurement.

Usually, the amount of ease is given somewhere on the pattern.  I found the ease printed on my front pattern piece next to the finished garment measurement.  I subtracted the amount of ease from the finished garment measurement and compared that to my bust measurement.   The difference was three inches, so I knew I had to find a way to add three inches to the bustline on the pattern.  I divided the 3 inches into two because I will cut the front piece on the fold.  So, I will need to add 1 1/2 “ to the front pattern piece.  I also know my hips are a little larger than the size on the pattern envelope so I will need to add some to the side seams.  With that in mind I decided to adjust the pattern piece by only one inch at the bust which will result in an increase of two inches because the piece is cut on the fold.  I can get the other one-inch increase by adding ¼ inch at each side seam.  Your figures will be different than mine and you may decide to do your total bust adjustment at the bust and not any at the seamline.  You really have to just make an attempt and see if it works.  You can always make adjustments to your pattern and to your mockup before you cut into your fashion fabric for the actual garment.

On page 130 of The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, Sarah Veblen gives suggestions about the maximum amount to be added when using this method of making a full bust adjustment.  There is a section in Fit for Real People that details instructions for making a Y bust adjustment.  This technique is used when adding more then 1 ½” on each half of the front pattern piece or a total of 3” to the bust of the pattern.  

As I copied the front pattern piece, I made sure I transferred all markings from the pattern to my copy including the line for lengthening or shortening the garment.  On my pattern the line was about one inch above the waist.  I will not need to lengthen or shorten my garment, but I can use this line as a horizontal balance line (HBL).  Sara Veblen discusses the HBL in her book, The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting, beginning on page 24.  HBLs will help you keep your garment in the proper position as you make adjustments.  These lines should always be horizontal to the floor and perpendicular to the center front. 

Before I began the full bust adjustment,  I measured approximately one-third way up on the armhole  and marked that point.  Make sure the apex is marked on your pattern.   The apex is usually marked on the pattern with a circle with a plus sign in it.  Don't worry if the marked apex is higher than your bust point.  The apex will automatically be lowered by making the full bust adjustment.  If it needs to lowered even more, you can do that after sewing and trying on your mockup.  Then you can make the changes to your pattern before cutting your fashion fabric.  My pattern did not have the apex marked.  I marked it a little above the dart and about one inch away from the dart end so that the middle line of the dart will go through the marked apex.  I drew a line from the point marked on the armhole to the apex and straight down from the apex to the bottom of the garment.  Make sure this line is perpendicular to the bottom.   I extended the middle line in the dart to, but not through, the apex.  This became line 2 of the full bust adjustment.   I drew line 3 just above the HBL from line 1 to the center fold line about one inch above the HBL. 

I placed my pattern on my gridded cutting mat to make the cuts on the three lines.  If you don’t have a cutting mat with grids, you could use a fold-up cardboard grid.  I carefully cut from the bottom of the garment on line 1 up to and through the apex to, but not through, the armhole.  Then I cut line 2 from the side to, but not through, the apex.  I spread both sides of line A apart and to the side and down.   This caused the dart to open.   I made sure I kept the center fold line on a grid line and kept both sides of line A parallel to a grid line.    I measured the distance between both sides of Line A.  When it equaled the amount of increase needed, I use pattern weights to hold my pattern in place.  If you used a cardboard grid, you could use pins to hold the pattern in place.

After doing the full bust adjustment, the bottom of the garment was not level.  This required truing the pattern.  To do this, I cut from the center fold line across line 3 to line 1.  Then I pulled the section down so that it was level with the side section using a grid line to make sure the section was level.  Pin or use a pattern weight to hold the section in place.  Then I carefully added pieces of pattern paper to fill in the spaces on my pattern and taped them. 


After marking the center line of the new dart, I folded the bottom dart leg to the top dart leg and then cut the pattern on the cut line.  That resulted in forming the dart extension on the pattern piece.  The front of the pattern is now ready to be cut.


If you are interested in learning to fit a pattern to your body, I hope you will do some reading on the subject to prepare yourself for this sewing adventure.  The two books I recommended are good resources.  Fit for Read People focuses on fitting the tissue pattern on your body and making the changes directly to the pattern before you cut your fabric.  The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting focuses on comparing your measurements to the pattern measurements and making one or more test garments to use to determine what alterations are needed for your pattern to fit you.  There are many photos of fitting problems to help you learn to recognize areas that need adjustment and show you how to make the adjustments.  Both these books are filled with helpful information.  And there are many other sources of good information on the internet.  The important point is for you to begin to research some of the available information so you can train yourself to become proficient at fitting a pattern. 

 Have fun fitting and sewing!







Sunday, December 27, 2020


Fitting a Pattern for a Bodice or Top

Fitting Topic No. 1 - Choose a Pattern and a Size

I believe the biggest determent to sewing clothes for most women is getting a pattern to fit.  If we could be sure that after putting our money, time and energy into making a garment, it would fit when finished; most of us would be happy to sew!  However, many times after we finish a garment, we are disappointed because it does not fit well.  I would like to offer a few tips and techniques I have learned through many years of fitting by trial and error.  There are a lot of fitting methods and I have tried most of them in search of garments that fit me.  Fitting cannot be covered in any one session.  So, my plan is to give tips and techniques for fitting during my next few posts.  Fitting is a process that requires practice.  Don’t just take a quick glance at the back of the pattern envelope and start cutting your fabric.  Be prepared to spend some time researching fitting and trying techniques to learn which ones work for you.  Your goal is to create a well-fitting garment and careful preparation will ensure that goal will be met! 

Start with fitting a pattern that can be used to make a bodice or top.   I chose Simplicity 8061 because it is a simple pullover top with a jewel neckline, side seam bust darts and short sleeves.  The back has a single button and loop closure.  The pattern recommended fabrics are cotton, cotton blends, challis, silk, linen, and linen blends.  I recommend using a cotton or cotton blend fabric to make a mockup for fitting purposes.  You can use muslin for the mockup, but I am going to use some cotton fabric in my stash that I know I will never use to make a garment I intend to wear.  I know the fabric I am going to use is not a good quality cotton, but it will work for a mockup.  I will throw away the mockup after I create a pattern to fit me.

First, you will need to take a few body measurements:

Bust – Measure your bust over the fullest part.  Be sure to keep the tape measure level across your back.  Put one finger under the tape and read the measurement.

High Bust – This measurement is taken above the bust, under the arms and across the back.

Waist -  Measure around your waist comfortably – not too tight and not too loose.

Bicep -  Measure around your bicep.  Don’t pull the tape too tight.

Hip – Measure around the widest portion of you hips. 

Now that you know your measurements, you can pick a size to begin your project.  The back of the pattern envelope will not show a “high bust” measurement.  It will give only the “bust” size, the waist size, and maybe the hip size.  In order for the top to fit you well, it must fit at the shoulders.  The top hangs on the body from the shoulders, so it is imperative that you have a good fit at the beginning of the garment – the shoulders.  Most patternmakers increase the width of the shoulders as they increase the size of the bust.  However, that is not the way real life works.  You can have a full bust without having exceptionally wide shoulders.  Therefore, take your “high bust” measurement and find the closest “bust measurement” on the pattern envelope.  That is the size you will use.  You will get a better fit at the shoulders and you can increase the bust before you cut your fashion fabric.  For example, if your high bust measures 36 inches and your bust measures 40 inches, you should pick size 14 on the example shown below. 

Obviously, in order to get a garment on and off and be able to move comfortably, a garment must be larger that your measurements.  That extra room is called “ease”.  Ease is the  difference between your measurements and the garment measurements.  Most patterns will show the ease on the individual pieces.  For example, the pattern I used showed the total ease for the top on the front pattern piece.  If you add the ease to the bust measurement on the pattern envelope, it should equal the total measurement around the completed garment at the bust.  To make sure I will have enough room in the garment, I like to measure across both the front and back pieces of the garment at the bust from seamline to seamline.  Then I can compare that figure to my actual bust measurement and decide if it has enough ease to allow me to be comfortable.  To make it easier for me to take this measurement, I draw the seamline on the pattern pieces. 

A pattern for a blouse or top may not give hip measurements on the back of the envelope and may not give the ease over the hips on the pattern pieces.  You need to make sure the pattern fits over your hips with some extra room for ease.  So, measure across the pattern pieces at the hips from seamline to seamline as you did for the bust.  Compare the total to your hip measurement.  Now you know if you need to add anything at the hips before you cut your fabric.

One of the reasons a pattern may not fit you without alterations is most patterns are drafted for women who wear “B” cup bra sizes.  If you are not a B cup size, you will probably need to alter the bust on your pattern.  I will address that issue in one of my coming posts.  If you want to follow along with me and create a pattern for a top that fits you, prepare by getting a pattern for a simple top with side seam bust darts.  Take your measurements that I listed above and watch for my fitting posts on this blog. 

If you have any books or videos about fitting, you could do some research on fitting before you begin.  There are two excellent books on fitting that I use.  They are Fit for Real People  by Pati Palmer and Marta Alto and The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting by Sarah Veblen.  I don’t sit and read a fitting book from front to back.  Instead, I search it for answers to my personal fitting problems.  Then I do a sample to see if I understand the procedure and if it will work for me. 

Next time, we will begin to prepare our patterns for cutting a mockup.  I will also discuss making a full bust adjustment.

Have fun with your sewing projects!